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Lucca and the miracles of the “Volto Santo”

This is the city with 130 medieval towers and the sixteenth-century walls that still seem to defend the inhabitants and artistic beauties against the enemies. Lucca is an historical and medieval city but it has a natural tendency for the present, as evidenced by international events such as Lucca Comics and Games, a cartoon, illustration and game festival held every year during the last weekend of October, or Lucca Summer Festival, a music festival that brings on stage internationally renowned artists.

Lucca’s “Volto Santo”, a miracle and the Divine Comedy

Let’s go back to the past of Lucca. Inside the Dome. also known as St. Martin0’s Cathedral, there’s the “Volto Santo” (hallowed visage), a crucifix realized in walnut-wood by Nicodemus, one of Jesus’ disciples. The statue-reliquary, according to believers, would represent the true Christ’s face and about it, over the centuries, numerous “miracolous” stories have been narrated . The most famous one is certainly about Giovanni di Lorenzo di Arras, an innocent person charged with murder and then sentenced to death. The accused began to pray God to avoid death but during the night, in his dream, the “Volto Santo” appeared and assured him that he would have been saved

The miracle happened. Indeed, on the day of execution Giovanni, resigned, was about to die innocently under the executioner’s shots and his cleaver. But the three attempts failed and both the public and the executioner convinced themselves of his innocence and he was released. We can see an evidence of this sensational event in front of the Chapel of “Volto Santo”: a marble tombstone and the cleaver that “didn’t hurt an innocent man”.

But the Volto Santo” of Lucca is also quoted in the Divine Comedy, in “Inferno: Canto XXI” , in the fifth chasm where barterers and public peculators serve their sentences. The story is about Martino Bottario, a renowned magistrate in Lucca at that time: he was mocked by some devils yelling “here the hallow’d visage saves not“, making it clear to the damned that not even praying to the relic will save him. His damnation will be eternal. Eternal as the miracolous aura of this wonderful relic.


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